Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maggie Stiefvater

by Maggie Stiefvater
Available Now

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

The day I nearly talked to Grace was the hottest day of my life. Even in the bookstore, which was air-conditioned, the heat crept in around the door and came in through the big picture windows in waves. Behind the counter, I slouched on my stool in the sun and sucked in the summer as if I could hold every drop of it inside of me. As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.
This was what i loved, when I was human."- Shiver

IBT: If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?

MS: I was always very much in love with Howl from Howl's Moving Castle, and also Chrestomanci,the egomaniacal and melodramatic wizard from many of Diana Wynne Jones' books. I'm not sure they would make very good real people, however. There's a lot of angst and green glop and sulking in the books, and that sort of stuff looks great on paper but makes for couples therapy in real life. And so I would say James Herriott, who was the World's Most Wonderful Vet in my young estimation, but he was a real person already, so that doesn't count. And then I'm afraid that all of the other characters that I really am fond of tend to be villains, as an evil laugh and plans for world domination generally tend to be traits that I look for in friends. But that wouldn't do a very good job of making the world a better place.

So I'm going to go with Charlie Bartlett. From the movie of the same name. He was hilarious and talented and would probably make great cocktail party conversation. And doesn't have immediate plans to take over the world.

IBT: How did you survive being a teen?

MS: I spent a lot of time wearing black turtlenecks and telling people that I wore black as I was mourning the death of modern civilization. And a lot of time holed up in my room tapping away at novels that are so bad, they could be classified as weapons of mass destruction. And a lot of time composing drastic tunes in minor key named after melodramatic events in history. Sense a pattern here? I was a very drastic teen and I didn't relate well to other teens my age -- I was far better with adults. And even then, I expect I was pretty insufferable as I was very opinionated. My parents were great then, though, because they never tried to make me normal. I was indulged in most of my weird hobbies -- like bagpiping, song-writing, a fascination with 1970s Northern Irish history -- and they never tried to medicate me or make me get therapy or otherwise change my sulky, grandiose plans. It's sort of weird, actually, to think of how different I could've been with different parents, and that's why I try to always explore my teen characters' backstories. They really do make us who we are.

IBT: As a werewolf fanatic myself, I'm curious to see where you take the werewolf mythology. How did they come to be in your next novel Shiver?

MS: Ha! I was never hugely fond of werewolves. There was all that slobber and shedding and slavering under the full moon. It just never really struck a chord with me. But I had just finished the first draft of LAMENT for my editor, and I was thinking of entering some short story contests to get my name out there. Well, the only one I could find in my genre was one on "lycanthropy." Where "lycanthropy" = fiction about slobber and shedding and slavering. I thought, "I can write about werewolves for 2,000 words, right?" Wrong. After brainstorming for an entire day, I didn't have a single idea in my head. But that night -- and I should mention I'm a big fan of the subconscious and using dreams to work out problems -- I had this very involved dream about a girl and the wolves who lived behind her house. When one of them got shot, she saved him, and turns out they were werewolves. Well, the mood of that dream stuck with me, and I wrote the short story (which was terrible). But it sort of begged for more. And I wailed, "But I don't do werewolves" while at the same time writing a synopsis for the book. And the rest is slavering history.

IBT: How have the books/movies you've read inspired the books you've written? What are you currently reading?

MS: It's funny, I love to read and try to manage a book a week, but I really think of my writing as more inspired by movies, to tell you the truth. I mean, I will pick apart a book with beautiful language or wonderfully done character interactions (like CROW LAKE, which has both), but when I'm sitting at the computer imagining my scenes, it's very cinematic. And when I'm stuck, I will often play the novel up to that point out in my head like a movie and imagine what the next scene would be if it was a movie.

There's generally two ways that books and movies inspire me. The first is "wow, I love the mentor concept. Too bad they made a dog's breakfast of it. I'd like to try my hand at that" and the other is "wow, that movie/ book was just incredible. Why was it incredible? I am willing to spend the rest of my life picking it apart and finding out how." Chocolat was that way. They did mood and theme so well in that movie that I really wanted to find a way to work that cohesiveness into one of my books.

IBT: How do you decide what ideas make it on the page? What were some of the ideas that didn't make it?

MS: I used to have a ton of ideas that never made it to fruition. I have literally dozens of novels that are between 10 and 100 pages that will never be finished -- but they're all from my pre-LAMENT days. Somewhere around the time of LAMENT, I decided I was sick of starting novels and not finishing them. I wanted to be sure that when I started something, I actually finished it, even if it wasn't brilliant. Or even good. So long as it was done. And so I started making sure I knew the final scene before I even started writing, so I knew where I was going. I just wouldn't let myself write that tantalizing first scene until I had the end in place. And somewhere along the way of always finishing what I started, I figured out that there really aren't any bad ideas. There's just a lack of revision. So even if my rough
drafts stink and the ideas aren't fully fleshed, I never give up on them – I just keep polishing that stone until it looks like something pretty.

But those old novels, the pre-LAMENT ones? They range from IRA thrillers to time travel young adult novels to urban fantasies involving prophecy spouting gnomes to . . . yeah. Now when I have a far-out idea, I'll write a short story to see if I like playing in the world. It has been enormously useful.

IBT: What's the strangest thing you've ever gotten inspiration from?

MS: Heh. I'm working on a novel now that was inspired by an e-mail. It was some sort of e-mail that had been routed through my Blogger blog, and somehow, the return e-mail was from Maggie Stiefvater. To Maggie Stiefvater. And I just grabbed that and ran. I have another that was inspired by a guy who came into my art show booth. He had tattoos up and down his arms and about eight-million mostly closed holes in his ears and eyebrows. His hair was slicked over and done up nicely, though, and he was dressed in a polo shirt. My brain went crazy imagining what would've made this tattooed rocker guy suddenly go straight-laced.

IBT: What is your favorite type of hero?

MS: Batman.

No, I'm kidding. Well, mostly. I love deeply conflicted heroes with angsty pasts, because I like someone who does good despite of who they are, rather than because of who they are. I like hard choices and character redemption and suddenly realizing that that asshole you despised for most of the book is really the one you have to trust if you want to make it through this twisted plot alive.

IBT: As an author how do you respond to those who think that censorship is a necessary evil?

MS: I'd like to point to example A: Maggie Stiefvater. I can only remember my parents taking a book out of my hands once. I was in third grade and I asked them what "divorce" was. They explained it to me very nicely and then took the book from me (they let me read it the next year). I can't remember a single other time that my reading was censored. Likewise, with movies, they'd make me close my eyes for kissy scenes that went beyond heavy panting until I was in my teens (long after I'd figured out what the panting bits were for myself). I was reading Michael Crichton at age 10 and F. Scott Fitzgerald by 12 and everything else in between. I am a Catholic, I've never killed anyone, I don't swear like a sailor, I have only dated one boy (who I went on to marry and live happily ever after with), I didn't get pregnant as a teen, I didn't do drugs, I've never watched a Steven Siegal movie from beginning to end . . . etc. etc. The list goes on and on of the things I read about but didn't do myself. Why? Because though I lived in books as a kid, I was raised by my parents. I lived by their example, not the example of the (admittedly SUPER COOL) people in books. And if I was censored -- whether it was that one book taken out of my hands or being told to close my eyes for the kissy scene -- it was by my parents, not by a school or someone else's parents or the government. Moreover, it was pretty clever, the way my parents censored me. Sure, I couldn't watch the kissy scenes -- but my dad would let me have his Dean Koontz and Jack Higgins' books when he was done with them, and they had kissing and sex in them. I was allowed to learn about it through books while still getting the subtle message from my parents that it was something to be approached with caution/ care/ stun guns. So I got to be a wary teen without being a naive one, if that makes sense.

So that's how I'll be raising my kids. The last thing in the world I want, however, is someone else telling me how to disseminate information to my kids. That's my job, not theirs. So I'm completely against censorship.

IBT: Have you ever written something that you feel uncomfortable writing, knowing that your family and friends will probably end up reading it?

MS: Heh. This feels like a loaded question, as my novels to date involve swearing, mild eviscerations, sex, bad parental choices, homicidal faeries, and kissing in sedans. When I was still living under my parents' roof, I was very aware of them as future readers, and I would say that I definitely responded to that. But once I moved out, I sort of shrugged and wrote what I wanted to write, and it hasn't been too painful. It has been hilarious, however, to have conversations with my grandmother about my books. Also, I will never forget my mom's reaction after she read SHIVER. "Maggie," she said, "Why did you make them swear?" "Maggie," she said then, "Why did you make them have sex?" and then, after a pause, "Maggie. It was amazing. It's going to be a movie."

I think that pretty much can be a metaphor for how my family comes to my writing. It helps that I'm very rarely autobiographical, or if I am, it's buried so deep even I have troubles recognizing it.

IBT: Many writers say parting with a character is hard. Do you ever look back and wish you had changed something about them?

MS: Usually not with major characters. But with minor characters, yes, sometimes, especially as the series goes on, I will wish that I tweaked something in the first book. More recently, I've had problems with not killing a character. There's a secondary character that I was supposed to kill in SHIVER that I couldn't bring myself to. (for the first time ever -- I'm normally quite heartless). I told myself I would kill them in LINGER, and still, they're alive. Now I am sure that I must kill them in FOREVER, but who knows, I might chicken out. I seem powerless to pull the trigger where this character is involved. (*50 points to anyone who guesses which character this is after reading SHIVER and LINGER).

*I know who I think it is!

IBT: Is Shiver a stand alone novel or will it be a part of a series?

MS: It'll be a *trilogy -- LINGER is coming out next year, in 2010, and then FOREVER will follow the year after that. I'd thought of it as a standalone as I was writing, but I ended up with a ton of spare parts at the end: definitely enough to build into another novel. And as I was planning that one, it became painfully obvious to me that really the novel I'd been planning was the third and last one, and I needed one in between.

IBT: Ok, that's all I've got. Thanks again!


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